Home » Columns, Gender Identity, Ideas, Not Your Average Prom Queen
10 March 2011, 12:00 pm 13 Comments

Not Your Average Prom Queen: “Born This Way” Blog Showcases Gay Kids

This post was submitted by Jean

Do you have memories of being a tomboy or sneaking into your mother’s closet as a child to try on her heels? We often use these memories to reflect on how “gay” we were growing up, or how we should have recognized the signs earlier. However we also need to recognize that a moment or a lifetime of stereotypical or non-stereotypical behavior does not directly correspond to our sexual orientation.

Liking He-Man did not mean I was gay — liking girls did.

I am not denying that stereotypes are often based in fact, or that our perceived relationship with gender and its presentation often  relates to our sexual identity or orientation. Instead I am emphasizing that the two things aren’t lock and key.

Projecting homosexuality onto an individual based on their style of dress or cultural preferences isn’t totally fair. It’s the exact argument that many liberal people make against parents pushing heteronormative behavior on children. Saying, “Bobby loves Barbies and makeup. He’s probably gay,” is no different from saying, “Bobby is a boy. He should be playing with trucks, not Barbies.”

I support any efforts to promote equality for minority individuals, and I am happy when these efforts find success. CNN ran a story this week  about a website launched in January called “Born This Way,” which is a photo-essay style blog containing photos of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer people as children. Site founder, Paul V., explains that the site is meant to show “that being gay is innate and it’s not a choice and these things come out in us as children.”

Paul V. also says he hopes that gay kids feel a sense of connection and a sense of worth from this project. This photo essay blog is another project which has found wings on the current winds of the It Gets Better Project. The more projects, websites, and foundations that support the health and safety of LGBTQ people, the better. I encourage everyone to check out this blog, but I also encourage you to keep in mind that while we want people to recognize that queerness is not learned, we don’t want to continue the spread the message that you can “see” gay.

Making gayness a visible, physical trait can encourage violence against those who are perceived gay, like 15-year–old Lawrence King, who was killed by a 14-year-old classmate in California for wearing makeup. It can also alienate LGBTQ people who don’t fit the stereotype of looking “gay enough.” If gayness was really a physical trait, how would we explain femme lesbians; masculine, sports loving gay men; butch straight women; effeminate, GaGa loving straight men? How do we support a transgender man who sleeps with men?

Just as we try to remind the  heterosexual community that who we sleep with doesn’t change who we are, so we should remind them that whether their son is into the Golden Girls or loves football they should foster and nurture the adult he will become without deciding on his sexual orientation based on a stereotype.

Thanks to Paul V., for this great project which shows that being different as a child is OK. Also thanks to all of those who visit the site for realizing that being queer is a larger issue than just being a little boy who wants to wear a wig to church.


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13 Comments »

  • queer dude said:

    Yes! You knocked this one out of the park, Jean. While standing on a tightrope. Gay behavior is a boy kissing a bust of a (male) Roman soldier, not necessarily having female friends or playing with barbies.

    I definitely encourage all parents out there to let your kids be themselves. Expose them to a lot of options and ideas, and let them choose what fits them, and encourage them to pursue those interests.

  • Jake said:

    http://www.bilerico.com/2010/02/birthright.php

    This article from The Bilerico Project pretty much sums up my thoughts.

  • Doctor Whom said:

    It can also alienate LGBTQ people who don’t fit the stereotype of looking “gay enough.”

    As one who has been accused of not looking, acting, or thinking “gay enough,” I thank you for saying this.

  • Ryan said:

    I think it’s also an important step in eliminating gender stereotypes, which will help society progress into a more egalitarian mold. I had fun playing with Barbies with the girl next door, but I avidly watched wrestling and roller bladed with the boys. However, maybe I just liked men in tights grappling with each other. ;)

  • James said:

    I’m really glad somebody wrote about this on here. I think that the “Born This Way” blog is a really fascinating manifestation of how we culturally conflate our concepts of sex/gender/sexuality that perpetuate stereotypes but in a largely humorous and probably harmless way, but maybe not.

    Sociological Images wrote a really good piece on this a few weeks back that raised similar questions as Jean raises here:

    http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2011/02/21/are-we-born-gay-and-if-we-were-how-would-we-know/

    It’s funny to honestly conceive of yourself as a product of your socialization, and rather than to resist the reduction of yourself to a cultural stereotype, to admit your existence, at least partially, as such. Everyone wants to think of themselves as inhabiting a post-categorical space in their identity and to think of themselves as complete individuals. But your individuality, I think, is more often than not thread together from strands of communal experience that are often represented through things we would consider stereotypes. It’s more interesting to think of how those stereotypes are conceived, reinforced and perpetuated than to deny the correlation entirely.

    But I really enjoyed this piece and I think that the site is an interesting queer space to consider.

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